In November I always remember my dear friend Bette Garber, who was a photojournalist for the trucking industry from the early 1980s until November 2008. Her work documents so much trucking history over those years. Bette liked to focus on the show trucks and the drivers who built them and showed them off up and down the road every day. She had five books published, featuring the trucks out there turning heads, back in the day. Her business wasn’t limited to the show trucks though, as she also loved to feature company drivers who had a great story, too. She would ride along with me in the truck on trips across the country, capturing images of everyday drivers, out there making a living.
Photoshop was in its infancy, but Bette would use it to create a few of what she called “artsy fartsy” pictures. She rode with us several times over the years to get stock photos for her Highway Images business. On those trips, she would focus on interesting shots of trucks running by themselves or in groups. Many times, we stood along the road on Cabbage in Oregon or on Donner in California, taking pictures. She captured the work drivers did on the dock, and even while fueling – she got a little bit of everything trucking.
Back then, businesses couldn’t just create whatever shot they were looking for. They would call Bette and tell her to get a certain shot, say a red Kenworth with hills behind it. Some companies would be very specific in what they wanted, and the only way to get it was to get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot! And as the new trucks rolled off the assembly line, she had to get out there to keep her inventory current. In years past we have had a photo contest in Bette’s memory. This year, we are going to do something different. I believe Bette would be on-board with this idea and the organization it will benefit.
Brent Collins, a photographer and founder of the Facebook group “A-frame and Friends Pics” wanted to know what people thought about having an auction of pictures with the proceeds going to the non-profit organization Truckers Final Mile. I thought it sounded like a great idea, and the more I learned, the greater I thought the idea was. After I talked to Brent and agreed to help as much as I could, I had the pleasure of talking with Robert Palm to learn more about the Truckers Final Mile organization. Let’s start at the beginning.
In July 1993, Robert had a personal experience with getting a loved one home when his step brother perished in a truck crash near Williamsport, PA. The family went there to bring him home. I have to say, I was very shocked to learn that a company has no responsibility to get a driver home if they die while on the road. Robert told me that there are some awesome companies that take care of their drivers, but there are a lot who’s only concern is getting the load delivered (if the driver was loaded) and getting the truck and trailer back. There is no law or rule anywhere that makes a company accountable for taking care of getting a driver back home.
In 2013, Robert was outside of Buffalo, OK behind a tanker that rolled in front of him. He stopped and talked to the driver of that rig and sat with her until she was air-lifted out. Thankfully, she lived, and they even kept in touch for a while. It was when Robert crawled up out of that ravine, he told me, “God spoke to me.” This started a year-long process of researching the legalities of creating a 501c3 non-profit, creating a mission statement, and then determining a strategic plan for the organization.
Truckers Final Mile started in May 2014 with the mission statement: “To reunite North American truck drivers and their families in times of crisis.” They do this by bringing a deceased truck driver home to be laid to rest. To help ease the burden for the family, they often provide a plane ticket or ground transportation to a local mortuary, as well. They also help drivers who have been severely injured on the road, by helping the driver get home or helping their significant other get to them. Their mobility program laid the groundwork to establish a network of providers to retrofit homes of North American truck drivers for mobility and accessibility needs. Grief counseling is also available. Coverage is for currently employed/self-employed CDL holders and their immediate family members.
There is also a “Sleigh Bells and Santa” campaign that runs July through December. This program helps children under 18 who have lost a parent on the road. Last year, they helped provide gifts for 21 kids, and four children got a $500 college savings account. They have a goal of helping 25 children per year with the $500 college savings accounts.
Every situation presented to the organization is verified within four hours. The office is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To date, there have been 290 drivers reunited with their families, 41 of those in 2020. You can go to www.truckersfinalmile.org to learn more about this fantastic organization. So, let’s talk about the auction!
The rules of the auction are simple. We will accept donations of pictures until November 13 at 6:00 PM. The photographer is responsible for printing and sending the winner the print. The picture you donate MUST be a photo that you took! Please make sure that the photo is good enough to make a quality print at minimum 11×14 size. We also encourage you to print your photo in a size that will be easy for the winner to frame. The photographers will not be responsible for framing. After bidding is over, the winner has to make the winning donation to Truckers Final Mile before the print they won will be sent. This is tax deductible for both the photographer and the bid winner.
The auction will be held in a Facebook group (Truckers Final Mile Photo Auction) from noon EST on 11/14/2020 to noon EST 11/21/2020. If anyone is bidding on a picture for a Christmas gift, this should allow enough time for it to get there before the holiday. There is going to be a wide assortment of pictures to choose from! I would like to thank everyone who is donating a picture or artwork. If you don’t have a photo you feel is good enough, then go to the auction, find your favorite, and make a bid. Your donation is always welcome.
Thank you also to Trucker Talent Contest winner singer Taylor Barker for his help promoting this auction and all the effort he puts into raising money for Truckers Final Mile. I’d like to mention a few contributors to give you an idea of the diversity that will be available. Not every photo will be trucking related, so be sure to look at them all once they are posted. Join the Facebook group now (Truckers Final Mile Photo Auction) so you can start seeing the posts and photos as soon as possible.
Some of the organizations and people that have committed to donating a picture include former photo contest winners and magazine publishers, as well as photographers from the United States, Australia, and Canada. Some of these individuals include Brent Collins, Bette Garber, Joseph Graham, Flatbed Red, Daniel J. Linss of 10-4 Magazine, Steve Pollock of Movin’ Out, Bob Conrad of Gearjammer Magazine, Steve Ford of LargeCar Magazine, Harm Speerstra, Art Czajkowski, Wendy Wilfong, Tom Miedema, Warren Aitken, Tempie Davie, Sindi J. Munday, Steve Shepherd, Kenny Hubka, Trevor Hardwick, Chris Seeton, Chad Violet, Joyce Brenny, Troy Miller, Kasey Aslinger, Penny Brownfield, June Woolford, yours truly, and more!
Check out the group on Facebook (Truckers Final Mile Photo Auction) and, if you feel inclined, make a bid on a photograph. The pictures will be awesome, but the money raised for this amazing organization will be even better. Thank you to everyone at Truckers Final Mile for all the support and great work you do for the American trucker. The pictures shown here are just random examples of the photographs that will be available in the auction.